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Small nuclear reactors- a very problematic ”solution” to climate change

The controversial future of nuclear power in the U.S. National Geographic, 5 May 21, ”……………. In the U.S., a company called NuScale has recently received design certification approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for its SMR, the first and only company to do so. Its reactor is a miniaturized version of a traditional reactor, in which pressurized water cools the core where nuclear fission is taking place. But in the NuScale design, the whole reactor is itself immersed in a pool of water designed to protect it from accidental meltdown.

NuScale hopes to build 12 of these reactors to produce 720 megawatts at the Idaho National Laboratory as a pilot project. It’s been supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, which has approved up to $1.4 billion to help demonstrate the technology. NuScale plans to sell the plant to an energy consortium called Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems.

Last year, eight of the 36 utilities in the consortium backed out of the project, citing the cost. The company recently announced the project would be delayed to 2030, and the cost would rise from $4.2 billion to $6.1 billion.

Nuclear opponents point to this latest disappointment as yet another example of why nuclear isn’t up to the task.

“If your first SMR isn’t built until the late 2020s, and then you have to turn it on, not to mention set up a whole new global supply chain, are you going to reach zero emissions by 2035?” asks IEER’s Makhijani. “You can’t make a significant contribution in time.” He adds that the industry’s long history of overruns and delays are especially problematic when considering climate commitments. “There’s no room for significant mistakes.”

……. The future of nuclear power will depend in part on how well it can balance a grid that increasingly relies on renewables…..   Unlike gas turbines, which can be turned on and off in seconds to “follow the load,” reactors take an hour or more to cut their production in half.

It’s not that reactors can’t follow the load; they’re just slower. “They can and do, because they have to,” Buongiorno says. “It’s just never an attractive economic proposition.”

Last fall, the DOE awarded $80 million each to two companies working on advanced reactor designs intended in part to address this problem. 

The first, TerraPower, a startup founded by Bill Gates, is working on a sodium-cooled reactor………   The second grant went to a company called X-energy for a gas-cooled reactor that operates at very high temperatures.

……  The high-level radioactive waste they produce, however, would need to be transported to a centralized location for management.

.. none of these new designs are moving quickly enough to meet Biden’s targets. DOE officials called their decision to support these two pilot projects, which aim to be fully operational by 2028, “their boldest move yet.”

Meanwhile, there’s a more direct way to balance the variability of renewables: store electricity in batteries. The market for utility-scale battery storage is exploding; it increased by 214 percent in 2020, and the EIA predicts that battery capacity will surge from its current 1,600 megawatts to 10,700 by 2023.

Makhijani thinks nuclear power isn’t going to be needed to balance the grid. A study he conducted in 2016 for the state of Maryland found that increased battery storage, combined with incentives to consumers to reduce their electricity use at peak times, would almost allow utilities to balance the variability of renewables.

They’d just need to store a little energy as hydrogen, which can be produced by running renewable electricity through water and then converted back to electricity in a fuel cell. That process is currently very expensive, Makhijani says, but “as long as it’s not giant amounts, it’s affordable.”……

May 6, 2021 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

Canada’s push for small nuclear reactors effectively stops real action on climate change.

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Are Mostly Bad Policy, 
“………So Who Is Advocating For SMRs & Why? Clean Technica, ByMichael Barnard, 3 May 21,

At present we see SMR earmarked funds in both Canadian and US federal budgets, $150 million in Canada and 10 times as much in the US, mostly for research and development with the exception of over a billion to NuScale to, in theory, build something. In Canada, four provinces — Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan — have joined forces in an SMR consortium. Bill Gates’ Terrapower has received another $80 million, as has X-Energy from the US DOE.

The failure conditions of small modular reactors are obvious. The lack of a significant market is obvious. The lack of ability to create a clear winner is obvious. The security costs are obvious. The lack of vertical scaling to thermal efficiency is obvious. The security risks and associated costs are obvious. The liability insurance cap implications are obvious. So why is all of this money and energy being thrown at SMRs? There are two major reasons, and only one of them is at all tenable.

Let’s start with the worst one. The Canadian provinces which are focused on SMRs are claiming that they are doing this as a major part of their climate change solutions. They are all conservative governments. Only one of those provinces has a nuclear fleet, although New Brunswick has one old, expensive, and due-to-retire reactor, as well as a track record of throwing money away on bad energy ideas, like Joi Scientific’s hydrogen perpetual motion machines. One of the provinces, Ontario, has been actively hostile to renewable energy, with the current administration cutting up 758 renewables contracts and legislating a lack of recourse as a very early act after election.

So why are they doing this? Because it allows them to defer governmental climate action while giving the appearance of climate action. They can pander to their least intelligent and wise supporters by asserting that renewables aren’t fit for purpose, while also not doing anything about the real problem because SMRs don’t exist in a modern, deployable, operable form yet.

The other major reason gets back to renewables as well. 15 years ago it was an arguable position to hold that renewables were too expensive, would cause grid reliability issues and that nuclear in large amounts was necessary. That’s been disproven by both 15 years of failures of nuclear deployments, but more importantly plummeting costs and proven grid reliability with renewable generation. Now almost every serious analyst agrees that renewables can economically deliver 80% of required grid energy, but there is still debate from credible analysts about the remaining 20%.

Mark Z. Jacobson and his Stanford team are at the center of this debate. Since the late 2000s, they’ve been publishing regular studies of increasing scope and sophistication on the thesis of 100% renewables by 2050. The 2015 publication saw a lot of pushback. At the time, my assessment of the fundamental disagreement was that the people who published a criticism of it thought the last 20% would be too expensive, and that both nuclear and carbon capture and sequestration would be necessary and scaled components.

Personally, I’ve done various aspects of the math, looked at grid reliability and transformation data from around the world, and looked at ancillary services requirements, and I think Jacobson and team are right. Further, that since we all agree that renewables are fit for purpose for 80% of the problem we should deploy them as rapidly as possible.

However, it’s very reasonable to make a side bet or two to ensure coverage of that last 20%. I don’t mind research dollars spent on SMRs, which is all most of the SMR expenditures amount to, outside of the Nu Scale bailout (which is added to the Ohio $1.3 billion bailout, which is added to the annual $1.7 billion overt federal subsidy, which is added to the annual hidden $4 billion security subsidy which is added to the $70 billion unfunded cleanup subsidy, which is added to the uncosted and unfunded taxpayer liability). Spending a few tens of millions of dollars in rich countries to ensure that we have that last 20% bridged is reasonable.

But the people asserting that SMRs are the primary or only answer to energy generation either don’t know what they are talking about, are actively dissembling or are intentionally delaying climate action.

May 4, 2021 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Misguided funding for small nuclear reactors

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Are Mostly Bad Policy, Clean Technica  By Michael Barnard 3 May 21,

People asserting that SMRs are the primary or only answer to energy generation either don’t know what they are talking about, are actively dissembling or are intentionally delaying climate action.

Like hydrogen, small modular nuclear reactors have been seeing a resurgence of interest lately. Much of that is driven by governmental policies and investments focusing on the technology. Much of it comes from the nuclear industry. And inevitably, some comes from entrepreneurs attempting to build a technology that they hope will take off in a major way, making them and their investors a lot of money.

Most Of The Attention & Funding Is Misguided At Best, & Actively Hostile To Climate Action At Worst

First, let’s explore briefly the world of small modular nuclear reactors (SMNR) or small and medium reactors (SMR). The most common acronym is SMR, but you’ll see both.

As it says on the box, they are nuclear generation devices, specifically fission nuclear. That means they use radioactively decaying fissile materials, fuels, to heat a liquid which creates steam which drives steam turbines to generate electricity. Technically, they are like a coal generation plant, but with the heat provided by the decay of uranium instead of the burning of long-buried plant matter.

There are a handful of differences between them and traditional nuclear generation reactors. The biggest one is that they are smaller, hence the ‘small’ and ‘medium’ in the names. They range from 0.068 MW to 500 MW in capacity, with the International Atomic Energy Association using small for up to 300 MW and medium for up to 700 MW.

Despite the buzz, this is not new technology. The first nuclear generation plant was a Russian 5 MW device that went live in 1954. Hundreds of small reactors have been built for nuclear powered vessels and as neutron sources. This is well trodden ground. Most of the innovations being touted were considered initially decades ago.

In the seven decades since the first SMR was commissioned, 57 different designs and concepts have been designed, developed and, rarely, built. Most of the ones which are built are doing what nuclear reactors do, getting older without new ones being built to replace them.

The Russian models are far-north icebreaker power plants being considered for land-based deployment in remote northern towns, with the Siberian one at end of life. The Indian ones are 14 small CANDU variants in operation, most decades old now. The Chinese one is coming up to end of its 40-year life span as well.

The Argentinean model has been in construction on and off for over a decade with work stoppages, political grandstanding, and monetary problems. It may never see the light of day.

The Chinese HTR-PM, under construction for the past decade, is the only one with remotely new technology. If commissioned, it is expected to be the first Gen IV reactor in operation.

And to be clear, this isn’t a technology, it’s many technologies. Across the decades, 57 variants of 18 types have been put forward. None of the types can be considered to be dominant.

Claims About SMRs Don’t Withstand Advocates for SMRs typically make some subset of the following claims:

They are saferThey can be manufactured in scaled, centralized manufacturing facilities so they will be cheaperThey can provide clean power for remote facilities or communitiesThey can be deployed onto decommissioned coal generation brownfield sitesThey can be built faster

Safety concerns aren’t why nuclear is failing in the marketplace, economics are why nuclear is failing in the marketplace…….. .

May 4, 2021 Posted by | business and costs, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Elon Musk’s expensive and dangerous space delusion

The Musk delusion  daryan energy blog 2 May 21, I’ve critiqued a number of Musk’s projects before, but I think we need to be a bit more direct. Quite simply is Musk entirely the full shilling? Is he the real life Tony Stark the fan boys seem to think, or a modern day Howard Hughes? Because if its the latter his bizarre behaviour will only get worse and worse until things come to a head. Which could have rather serious consequences………….

his proposed use of Starship, as a point to point transport mechanism amounts to saying that the rich should be allowed to burn vast amounts of fuel, just so they can save a few hours in transit. Well, if Starship was a vaguely sane suggestion that is. In truth, it would take almost as long to get its passengers point to point as a conventional airliner (once you factor in the time taken to get passengers out to the launch pad, suit them up, put on their astronaut diapers (yes, how do you think astronauts meet the calls of nature in a space suit), strap everyone in, fuel the rocket, etc.). And that’s assuming you’d be given permission to fly, given the many likely health and safety, environmental and noise related concerns.

In fact let’s talk about starship. It is a terrible design. I’m not going to waste time going over the many issues, in part because I’ve done so already, but also there are others who have done a far better job. But in summary, even if it worked, its a one trick pony….and that trick is the potential for down cargo (which its far from proving it can do) not going to Mars.

Even so, Musk has managed to blow up a dozen or so test prototypes with not a lot to show for it. He’s now in a dispute with the FAA and environmental groups over the mess he’s making, adding to the thousand or so active legal cases he’s currently fighting, largely because of his inability to keep his big mouth shut and not say dumb things online.

Which raises the question, what is the point of starship? …….

 NASA just awarded SpaceX the contract to build the Lunar lander? Ya and if one was cynical it would be that the Biden administration, whose never really committed to space flight, knows they don’t have the funds or the political capital to blow hundreds of billions repeating Apollo. But they equally don’t want to be identified as the assassins who killed off manned lunar/Mars missions. They need a fall guy…which is where Musk comes in!

SpaceX happens to have facilities in key states that will matter in 2024 (most notably Texas, which might be a swing state by then). So, given that Congress sees NASA as a jobs programme, they sling a few billion his way. If he succeeds, well then great. If he crashes and burns, well aw shucks we tried our best, I mean we even got Elon Musk to design the hardware, how can we be to blame.

And this is what worries me about Musk and his fans. Sooner or later his luck is going to run out. Environments such as space, or public transport do not suffer fools. Likely we’ll end up with some tragic accident, or a massive overspend on a government project and he gets to spend the rest of his life going form congressional committee to committee and court house to court house…….

May 3, 2021 Posted by | election USA 2020, space travel | Leave a comment

Sen. Angus King: Cybersecurity a major concern in U.S. nuclear command-and-control system

Sen. Angus King: Cybersecurity a major concern in U.S. nuclear command-and-control system, by Sandra Erwin — May 2, 2021  King: Without an adequate N3C system ‘none of the rest of it works’

WASHINGTON — The U.S. nuclear command, control and communications system that serves as the link between U.S. nuclear forces and presidential authority could be vulnerable to cyber attacks and needs upgrades, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) told reporters May 1.

King, an independent who caucuses with the Senate’s Democratic majority, is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on strategic forces, which oversees the Pentagon’s space, nuclear and strategic deterrence programs.

King and a bipartisan group of senators on Saturday were briefed on U.S. nuclear modernization efforts at Offutt Air Force, Nebraska, where U.S. Strategic Command is headquartered. The senators on Friday also toured U.S. nuclear operations at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.

During a call with reporters after the Saturday briefing, King said the nuclear command, control and communications system known as NC3 was a “major point of discussion” and a “significant part of the briefing” senators received at Offutt.

NC3 is a Cold War-era system of interconnected sensors, communications and early warning satellites, aircraft and ground control centers. The Trump administration in 2018 assigned U.S. Strategic Command the responsibility for upgrading the NC3 architecture so it’s compatible with modern technology. 

King said nuclear command and control has become “much more complicated” and cybersecurity is a high priority. “All I can tell you is that it’s very much at the forefront” of the Strategic Command’s plan to upgrade the system, he said.

Ongoing discussions
 about the cost of modernizing the U.S. nuclear triad “tend to focus on missiles and airplanes and submarines, but command and control is essential,” King said. “It really ought to be referred to as the quad, not the triad.”

The U.S. nuclear triad consists of three “legs” — ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, aerial bombers and submarines that can deliver nuclear weapons anywhere in the world.

Without an adequate N3C system, “none of the rest of it works,” said King. 

The increasing frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks against DoD and other government systems is a cause for concern in the modernization of the NC3, he added. “The next conflict will almost certainly start with a major cyber attack to disable communications networks, and communications between the command authority and the forces, whether it’s an aircraft carrier or a bomber or a missile site.”

“It’s a challenge of assurance of communication, to be sure that you’re not cut off,” King said. “The president has to able to communicate with the forces to be able to issue commands, to consult with advisors.” 

Other senators who participated in the briefing included John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

May 3, 2021 Posted by | safety, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Poor prospects for small nuclear reactors (SMRs) as a cure for climate change

The nuclear industry and the U. S. Department of Energy are promoting the development of SMRs, supposedly to head off the most severe impacts of climate change. But are SMRs a practical and realistic technology for this purpose?

To answer, two factors are paramount to consider – time and cost. These factors can be used to divide SMRs into two broad categories:
Light water reactors based on the same general technical and design principles as present-day power reactors in the U.S., which in theory could be certified and licensed with less complexity and difficulty.

Designs that use a range of different fuel designs, such as solid balls moving through the reactor core like sand, or molten materials flowing through the core; moderators such as graphite; and coolants such as helium, liquid sodium or molten salts.

On both counts, the prospects for SMRs are poor.

EWG 25th March 2021

May 3, 2021 Posted by | climate change, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Mobile nuclear reactors? Scathing report slams ‘disturbing’ military program

Mobile nuclear reactors? Scathing report slams ‘disturbing’ military program, Times, 1 May 21, Todd South The author of an academic report on Pentagon plans to build mobile nuclear reactors to power future combat bases called the effort “extremely disturbing” and “based on a lie.”

The report released Thursday slams the Pentagon and Army G-4, logistics — specifically the Army office’s 2018 report that lays out the potential uses and needs for such mobile nuclear reactors in future operations.

Alan J. Kuperman wrote the 21-page report titled, “Proposed U.S. Army Mobile Nuclear Reactors: Costs and Risks Outweigh Benefits,” in his role as coordinator of the University of Texas at Austin’s Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project.

“They don’t reduce casualties, they increase costs and they increase threats to the lives of U.S. service members,” Kuperman said.

The program, known as “Project Pele,” is prototyping the mobile advanced microreactor concept under the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office……..

The DoD spokesman pointed out that the project is part of a collaboration involving the Department of Energy, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and private industry. Project Pele is not being designed for a specific military service branch but does include experts across defense for a variety of requirements.

Army officials for G-4 deferred comment on the program to DoD……..

Congress approved funding for prototype reactors and the Army awarded $40 million in contracts to three nuclear reactor companies in March 2020 for Project Pele, according to the NPPP report.

Kuperman struck at the Army’s rationale, calling the project unnecessary and dangerous. He counters some of the main justifications that have been provided by DoD and Army reports:

  • High cost
     – Kuperman said the Army’s claims that nuclear power can provide cheaper electricity for powering future forward bases is “based on unrealistic assumptions.” Those include that such a reactor would have low construction costs and operate for 18 hours a day over 40 years. The more likely scenario is a mobile reactor would run for half that time over about 10 years, meaning nuclear electricity could cost 16 times more than estimates and still seven times more than diesel-generated power.
  • Vulnerability to missile attacks – The report points to the 2020 missile attack on forces at al-Asad air base in Iraq. Even with warnings hours ahead of time, more than 100 U.S. personnel suffered traumatic brain injury from the 11 strikes that hit the facility. And the missiles were 10 times more accurate than the Army has predicted in its report on the vulnerability of reactors to precision strikes. The service admits that a direct hit on a reactor would destroy the device. Kuperman notes that even the Army’s plans to protect the reactors, by burying them underground, could inadvertently cause meltdowns by impeding air cooling and causing overheating. A similar strike on an similar such future base with a reactor could cause far more devastating consequences.

  • Captured reactors 
    – Should a U.S. base housing a mobile reactor be overrun or abandoned, the radioactive waste from the reactor could be used in “dirty bomb” terror attacks.
  • No mission for reactors – One of the chief purposes of pursing such reactor programs was to reduce casualties from diesel transport to remote bases. But Defense Department data shows a dramatic drop in casualties of five per 1 million gallons of fuel delivered in 2005 to nearly zero by 2013.
  • High-energy weapons don’t need reactors – Kuperman states that the justification that future high-energy or laser weapons that the Army hopes to have protecting bases don’t require a reactor to power. “A high energy weapon would have to be fired millions of times to justify a reactor,” Kuperman said. “In reality such a weapon would be fired perhaps hundreds of times in its lifetime.”
  • Transport problems – The Army wants to air deliver these reactors to combat posts. Kuperman questions the “regulatory nightmare” that would create. The program calls for initial tests flying the reactors domestically to run then returning them, and their radioactive waste, to another domestic location. Foreign transport would require approval of countries airspace traversed and the approval of a host nation where the reactor would be placed, he said. Other Army recommendations include truck or rail transport domestically and either ship or over-the-ocean flights to friendly ports to then move the reactors again via truck or rail.

  • Army Times
     reported on the proposed program in 2019, which had drawn backlash from the Union of Concerned Scientists and its then-director of the Nuclear Safety Project, Edwin Lyman, who called the proposal, “naïve.”The original proposal, approved by the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office asked for industry solutions in January 2019 on providing a less than 40-ton small, mobile nuclear reactor design that could operate for three years or more and provide 1 to 10 megawatts of power.Planners want the reactor to fit inside a C-17 cargo plane for air transport to theater. More recent moves have reduced the power output to 5 megawatts……..

Lyman notes a major failure with one of the original eight designs in 1961 when a core meltdown and explosion of the ML-1 reactor in Idaho killed three operators.

The three deployed to Antarctica, Greenland and Alaska proved “unreliable and expensive to operate,” Lyman wrote in his response to the Army’s 2018 report on the mobile reactor program.Lyman told Army Times on Thursday that a number of those old reactors required decades of decommissioning and one used at Fort Belvoir, Va., near Washington D.C. is finally scheduled for decommissioning in late 2021………..

May 1, 2021 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, spinbuster, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Following Biden climate summit, USA govt keen to promote and export Small Nuclear Reactors

A Spotlight on Advanced Nuclear after the White House Climate SummitJD Supra, 30 Apr 21. -”…….. With the nuclear ban lifted by the Development Finance Corporation for investment in innovation projects, the U.S. government acknowledged the importance of nuclear in the transition to [?] clean energy in developing economies. 

………..  the Department of State announced the launch of its Foundational Infrastructure for the Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) Program. Through an initial $5.3 million investment, this program will strengthen international collaboration between the U.S. and partner countries seeking to deploy nuclear energy in their clear energy initiatives. This cooperation includes supporting the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors (SMRs),…….

May 1, 2021 Posted by | politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The nuclear menace from under the seas and from high in the sky- theme for May 21

Why would anyone persist in pushing Small Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) and pretending that they can solve climate change, when they clearly cannot?

Well, the answer is – if you’re a toxic macho nuclear zealot or a nuclear weapons corporation – ( Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and General Dynamics etc)- this myth about SMRs is manna from heaven.

It means that the tax-payer, not private enterprise investors, will take over the SMR push – and the military-industrial-complex will race away with nuclear sites and weapons in space, and with powerful killer nuclear submarines.

Meanwhile those billionaire nuclear gurus – Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, , Richard Branson, Jack Ma and othes , will be laughing all the way to the bank, as they promote ”peaceful, nuclear-powered” space travel.

The global media promotes the joy and delight of space travel, rarely acknowledging its intimate connection with militarism. And there’s a crazy sort of national pride – hubris in being in the space race.

The space race to what? Apart from the obvious – nuclear war and annihilation, there’s the danger of ecosystem plutonium pollution from accidents and leaks, drastic accidents, and the gobbling up of public funds that might otherwise go to the public good – health, education, welfare, climate ation – heck – even good international relations!

The USA and Russia have long been in a toxic competition to militarily control the world especially by nuclear submarines. There’s a strange and unwarranted confidence that nuclerar submarines are ”clean” and somehow ”safe”. That’s because they release their radioactive trash unseen, into the world’s ocean waters. When they have an accident, well they just sink, and their poisonous mess is invisible. Dead nuclear submarines seem to be no trouble, hidden on the sea floor. Now that the world has become (a bit) aware of the radioactive danger of nuclear submarines, the dead ones lie in port, as nobody really knows what to do with them, how to clean up the nuclear mess.

In this time of pandemic, it is urgently necessary to put the brakes on NATO, and Russia – in regard to the increasing danger to the world, of nuclear submarines. Even more than cruise ships, they can be a hot-bed of coronavirus – making them even more unsafe in a number of ways.

May 1, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Christina's themes, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, weapons and war | 1 Comment

The purpose of USA space research is clearly military – they don’t even pretend any more.

US Nuclear Marks Beginning of Age of Space Mining as It Signs Historic Trade Agreement, US Nuclear Corp, April 28, 2021,

Source: US Nuclear Corp.  Los Angeles, CA, April 28, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — via NewMediaWire — On April 15, 2021, US Nuclear Corp. (OTCQB: UCLE) signed a historic trade agreement with Solar System Resources Corporation that marked the beginning of the age of space trade and mining.  The new agreement sets preliminary prices for the high value materials to be extracted.  It also establishes and expands our cislunar and solar system value chain and adds SatRevolution as a new partner.  The agreement is a continuation of the Letter of Intent signed on February 5, 2021, and outlines how US Nuclear and Solar Systems Resources Corp. plan to cooperate building a value chain starting with mining and selling valuable helium-3 and lanthanide metals and other materials from space deposits.

Solar Systems Resources Corporation Sp. z o. o. is a space mining company that conducts localization, in-situ verification, and mining of space resources.  A third strategic partner, SatRevolution S.A., a leading provider of nanosatellites, is also participating in construction of the value chain mentioned in the agreement.  The deal, if completed in full, could be worth many hundreds of billions of dollars and will pave the way to a new frontier mining resources in space.    

The agreement is in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding, and highlights include:

……….. The parties will endeavor to support the US (and allies), NATO military, and the development of the operational capabilities of the US Space Force……

April 29, 2021 Posted by | space travel, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Call for debate and scrutiny of proposed nuclear fusion power plant

Call for debate and scrutiny of proposed nuclear fusion power plant
, 28 Apr 2021  Nation CYMRU, Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter

A call has been made for a proper debate and scrutiny over a proposed nuclear fusion power plant near Barry.

Vale of Glamorgan council put forward Aberthaw, a recently closed coal-fired power plant, as a potential site for a fusion prototype.

The UK government last year called for suggestions for possible sites to pioneer the technology which could generate electricity with low carbon emissions.

But opposition councillors on the Vale council have claimed the cabinet has “rushed through” its decision to suggest Aberthaw as a site.

Plaid Councillor Ian Johnson said: “It was strange that the council leadership did not consult with other parties or ask a cross-party scrutiny committee to consider issues before making the expression of interest about a possible future use of the Aberthaw plant.

“Even though it is an early point, many people will have questions about the technology, the impact of the development and the process, and discussing this in scrutiny would open up the debate and ensure transparency.”

Fusion technology is still in its infancy and no fusion reactor has ever created more power than it consumes. But scientists say it could be cleaner and safer than fission, the nuclear technology currently used to generate electricity.

If Aberthaw is chosen, the council is hoping the power plant could bring lots of high-tech high-paid jobs to the region. Westminster should decide on a site by the end of next year, and the power plant would be built by 2040, costing about £2 billion.


But the Vale’s cabinet used controversial emergency powers last month to put forward Aberthaw as a site, without consulting the full council or any scrutiny committees. Council leader Neil Moore said this was due to the deadline for suggestions at the end of last month.

However, Westminster made the initial call for suggestions in December last year, meaning the council had four months in total to debate and scrutinise the decision to put forward Aberthaw. The council debated the issue in a meeting this week, after the deadline passed.

Conservative Cllr Gordon Kemp said: “This is being dealt effectively without allowing any proper consideration or scrutiny. It’s an extremely significant matter, even if we ignore the issue of public concern over such a proposal.

“We’re looking at potentially a colossal, massive investment in the Vale. It could create many jobs, so I think it’s something that should have been discussed.

“I appreciate there are always deadlines on this. But I’m very concerned and surprised this wasn’t put before cabinet and scrutiny committees [earlier].”…

April 29, 2021 Posted by | technology, UK | Leave a comment

No future for new nuclear

 ‘the claim that any nuclear reactor system can “burn” or “consume” nuclear waste is a misleading oversimplification. Reactors can actually use only a fraction of spent nuclear fuel as new fuel, and separating that fraction increases the risks of nuclear proliferation and terrorism.’ 

mini-PWR designs, like NuScale’s Small Modular Reactor. – the UCS is none too keen on SMRs, as witness its earlier report on them –it says ‘small isn’t always beautiful’. A more recent review of SMRs by Prof. M.V. Ravana, from the University of British Columbia, looking more at the economics, came to similar conclusions: ‘Pursuing SMRs will only worsen the problem of poor economics that has plagued nuclear power and make it harder for nuclear power to compete with renewable sources of electricity.’ 

No future for new nuclear— arguably definitive study 25 Apr 21, of new advanced non-water cooled nuclear options, including molten salt reactors and liquid sodium cooled fast reactors, from the US Union of Concerned Scientists, concludes that none can be ready for at least a decade, more like two, and there are none that meet safety, security, sustainability criteria, apart possibly from once-through breed and burn reactors. If we want nuclear it says it would more sensible just to upgrade the standard, more familiar, water cooled reactors.

It sets the scene by noting that, in the United States, so-called Light Water Reactors (PWRs and BWRs) have dominated, these using ordinary water to cool their hot, highly radioactive cores, as opposed to reactors like the Canadian CANDU that use ‘heavy water’, with a double neutron hydrogen isotope, as a moderator. Support for LWRs has continued, despite some economic problems, which have bedevilled expansion in the US and elsewhere: ‘new nuclear plants have proven prohibitively expensive and slow to build, discouraging private investment and contributing to public skepticism’. 

Continue reading

April 27, 2021 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

Be aware – Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) for space rockets has everything to do with the mkilitary, and funding for weapons makers

US Military Seeks Nuclear Space Flight Test by 2025, VOA 26 Apr 21,

The U.S. military has chosen three companies to develop nuclear thermal propulsion, or NTP systems to be tested in space by 2025. The goal is to test the space travel technology in cislunar space – the area between Earth and the moon.

What is NTP?  What is NTP?

The U.S. Department of Energy describes on its website how an NTP system works. It needs a radioactive material such as uranium and another element, such as hydrogen, in liquid form. The liquid propellant is pumped through a reactor core. This causes uranium atoms to break apart inside the core and release heat. The heat turns the propellant into gas, which expands through an opening to produce thrust.

The contracts to produce a flight demonstration of NTP technology were awarded by the military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. The winning contractors were General Atomics, Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin. DARPA did not announce how much the contracts were worth.

In a recent announcement about the project, DARPA said the area of space, or “space domain,” will be very important to business, scientific discovery and national defense. Establishing “space domain awareness in cislunar space…will require a leap-ahead in propulsion technology,” the agency said……..


The U.S. space agency NASA has long been interested in nuclear propulsion systems to power its spacecraft of the future. But the technology has not yet been demonstrated……..

April 27, 2021 Posted by | space travel, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The Chernobyl story continues

Chernobyl: The next phase By Axel  Reiserer, 23 Apr 2021

At 01:23:40 on 26 April 1986, the failure of a routine test at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, caused reactor 4 to explode, releasing parts of its radioactive core. It was the worst nuclear accident the world had ever seen, with far-reaching political, economic and ecological consequences. Thirty-five years on, Chernobyl is still as well-known as it was a generation ago.

Fires broke out, causing the main release of radioactivity into the environment. Wind carried contaminated particles over Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, as well as parts of Scandinavia and wider Europe. The 50,000 inhabitants of the adjacent town of Pripyat were evacuated, never to return.

The accident destroyed reactor 4, killing 30 operators and firemen within three months and causing numerous other deaths in weeks and months that followed. To this day, it remains the only accident in the history of the civil use of nuclear power when radiation-related fatalities occurred. The precise number of short- and longer-term victims remains heavily disputed.

By 06:35 on 26 April, all fires at the power plant had been extinguished, apart from the fire inside reactor 4, which continued to burn for many days. Some 5,000 tonnes of boron, dolomite, sand, clay and lead were dropped from helicopters in a bid to extinguish the blaze. When the destroyed reactor was later enclosed in a provisional structure – the so-called sarcophagus – these fuel-containing materials were also walled in.

The sarcophagus was built under extremely hazardous conditions and unprecedented time pressure. By November 1986, a steel and concrete shelter was in place to lock away the radioactive substances inside the ruined reactor building and to act as a radiation shield. It was always intended as a temporary measure, with an estimated lifespan of 20-30 years

The search for a long-term solution started soon after, alongside the massive challenge of cleaning up the accident site. By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union had dissolved and newly independent Ukraine had been left with the Chernobyl legacy. Following a G7 Action Plan to improve nuclear safety in central and eastern Europe, the Nuclear Safety Account was set up at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in 1993. Two years later, the scope of the programme was extended to include Chernobyl.

A breakthrough came with the Shelter Implementation Plan in 1997, which provided a road map of how to the tackle the immediate and longer-term tasks. In the same year, the G7 officially invited the EBRD to set up and manage the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, which became the main vehicle for all efforts to ensure that the destroyed reactor 4 remained in an environmentally safe and secure state.

Emergency repairs in 1998 and 1999 prevented the imminent collapse of the sarcophagus, as well as a vent stack that was endangering the adjacent turbine hall over reactor 3, which was still in operation. It was only at the end of 2000 that all nuclear power generation in Chernobyl ceased. The following year saw a landmark decision to build an arch-shaped steel structure, called the New Safe Confinement (NSC), to seal off reactor 4.

In the subsequent years, several tasks were carried out simultaneously. Detailed technical work on the NSC started. The site had to be stabilised and prepared for the construction work. The first project the EBRD managed was the construction of a liquid radioactive waste treatment plant (LRTP) to handle some 35,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level liquid waste at the site. Meanwhile, the safe storage of the spent fuel assemblies from reactors 1, 2 and 3 came into focus.

All this has been achieved. The LRTP has been operational since 2014. A new interim storage facility for the treatment and storage of spent fuel has been built and, after successful hot tests, is currently awaiting a permanent licence from the Ukrainian regulator. The NSC, the most visible Chernobyl project, was slid into position in late 2016 and then handed over to the Ukrainian authorities.

In total, the Bank has managed close to €2 billion in donor funds through the Chernobyl Shelter Fund and Nuclear Safety Account. Of this, the EBRD provided €715 million of its own resources to complete the Interim Storage Facility and New Safe Confinement.

Today, the New Safe Confinement dominates the skyline over Chernobyl, as the sarcophagus once did. The steel structure is 108 metres high and 162 metres long, with a span of 257 metres and a lifetime of at least 100 years. It was assembled in two stages in a cleaned area near the accident site and, despite its size and weight of 36,000 tonnes, was pushed 327 metres into position. It is the largest moveable structure ever built.

This is not where the story ends, however. The fact that the NSC has a lifespan of 100 years means that the next phase of work now has to be planned, agreed and implemented. The estimated 200 tonnes of radioactive nuclear fuel inside reactor 4 are now shielded by the New Safe Confinement. However, parts of the sarcophagus are becoming unstable and will have to be removed at some point. Once this is done, work will come closer to the reactor’s interior.

The EBRD remains a key partner in these efforts. Following a request by Ukraine, in November 2020, the Bank established the new International Chernobyl Co-Operation Account, aimed at creating an integrated plan for the site to serve as the basis for developing and implementing longer-term projects. The new fund will hold it first assembly meeting on Tuesday – fittingly one day after the 35th anniversary. The Chernobyl story continues.

April 24, 2021 Posted by | safety, technology, Ukraine, wastes | 2 Comments

USA: Small nuclear reactors cannot meet the critical climate need – now, or ever

The critical need for deep carbon pollution reductions this decade calls on us to focus on the low-carbon technologies we have now. And those are wind and solar. SMRs will be a dollar short and a day too late. They cannot meet critical climate deadlines, not by 2030 or 2035, and likely never.

Advanced Nuclear Dreaming in Washington State, CounterPunch, PATRICK MAZZA  19 Apr 21, It was once known by one of the most inadvertently appropriate acronyms ever, WPPSS, the Washington Public Power Supply System.  “Whoops!,” as they called it, in the early 1980s brought on what was then the worst municipal bond default in U.S. history trying to build five nuclear reactors in Washington state at once, completing only one.

But faith in the nuclear future lives on at “Whoops!,” today rebranded as Energy Northwest. On April 1, the day perhaps also inadvertently fitting, the consortium of Washington state public utilities announced a move aimed at the first advanced nuclear reactor deployment in the U.S. Energy Northwest will partner with Grant County Public Utility District, a member utility serving a desert county in the center of the state, and X-energy, a leading developer of the nuclear industry’s bright shining hope, the small modular reactor (SMR)…………….

The WPPSS default was part of the first wave of nuclear failures in the U.S. In the wake of the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, approximately 100 proposed nuclear plants were cancelled. Recent years have seen a second round of failures. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 put $25 billion in nuclear subsidies on the table. That jumpstarted all of four nuclear reactors, two each in Georgia and South Carolina.  The only way Wall Street would touch the projects was to make ratepayers carry the risk by paying for “work in progress” before the first watt is delivered. South Carolina ratepayers won’t even see that. Cost overruns killed the project there in 2017 after $9 billion was thrown away, setting up a political and court fight over whether ratepayers will continue to be soaked.  The last two standing, Georgia’s Vogtle plants, were to have cost $14 billion and come on line in 2016-17. Now costs have doubled to $28 billion and scheduled completion this year and next is considered unlikely.


SMRs are the nuclear industry’s answer to avoid such failures in the future. Instead of being custom-built and individually licensed, SMRs are intended to cut costs by licensing a single design manufactured at a plant and sent for final assembly to their operating site.  Smaller than the 1,000-megawatt-plus plants with which we’re familiar, SMRs are 100 MW or less, and designed with safety features to prevent meltdowns such as experienced at Japan’s Fukushima plant in 2011. Though there are questions about that, as covered below…………..


For now, the question is whether SMRs such as X-energy’s can really revive the nuclear industry, and most importantly, provide a climate solution with low-carbon electrical power in a meaningful timeframe. The answer, by simple logic, is no

…………Though deep carbon cuts must start quickly, the Washington state partnership gives a completion date for its SMR pilot project as 2027-28. Considering the nuclear industry’s track record, delays and cost overruns are likely. And that would only be the beginning of a long-process to create the entire manufacturing supply chain needed to make SMRs an economical alternative. If they can be. The key issue is economies of scale.

“Power generation scales on volume of the reactor vessels,” notes Arjun Makhijani, who has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, with a specialization in nuclear fusion, from the University of California at Berkeley. “The materials and labor scale more slowly.  That’s a basic reason that there are economies of scale and big reactors were built.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) cites a study which shows that a reactor with 1,100 MW capacity would cost three times as much to build as a 180 MW plant, but produce six times the electricity, “so the capital cost per kilowatt would be twice as great for the smaller plant.”

SMRs lose those economies of scale, but proponents hope to make that up with mass manufacturing and licensing, avoiding costs of custom-built plants.


“The road to such mass manufacturing will be rocky,” Makhijani and M.V. Ramana write in a recent article, “Why Small Modular Reactors Won’t Help Counter the Climate Crisis.” “Even with optimistic assumptions about how quickly manufacturers could learn to improve production efficiency and lower cost, thousands of SMRs, which will all be higher priced in comparison to large reactors, would have to be manufactured for the price per kilowatt for an SMR to be comparable to that of a large reactor.”

That sets up “a chicken-and-egg economic problem,” they write. “Without the factories, SMRs can never hope to achieve the theoretical cost reductions that are at the heart of the strategy to compensate for the lack of economies of scale. But without the cost reductions, there will not be the large number of orders to stimulate the investments needed to set up the supply chain in the first place.”………….


The world is running out of time to address all the concerns facing SMRs and advanced reactor designs in general.

“If you look at the cold facts from a climate point of view we have a shortage of time and money. New reactors cannot help materially,” Makhijani told The Raven. “How are we going to have a carbon-free electricity system by 2035 in which SMRs will play a significant role when the first one isn’t even supposed to come on line till the late 2020s? Those who are advocating new nuclear reactors should address the time constraint, and whether we can do it without nuclear. If we could not do it without, that would be another question. But we can. So there should be no question.”

Many studies document the capacity of wind and solar to replace fossil fuel electricity. The challenge of varying sunlight and wind speeds is met with a smart grid that can adjust energy demand to available supply and link diverse geographies. So when the wind is blowing on the Great Plains, it can supply juice while clouds block sunlight in Chicago. For times when none of that is sufficient, storage in many forms can be used, from batteries to pumped storage reservoirs. Even household water heaters. If all else fails, backup generators fueled with stored hydrogen can be brought into play.  Hydrogen can be electrolyzed from water through solar and wind energy that would otherwise go unused because generation exceeds the demands of the grid.

Mark Jacobson
 of Stanford has done many studies documenting the capacity of wind, water and solar to meet all energy needs. A NOAA study showed carbon pollution from electricity could be cut up to 80% from 1990 levels by 2030, largely with wind and solar, needing no new nuclear and energy storage, while actually cutting electricity costs. That would require building a continental grid with efficient high-voltage DC lines to link diverse geographies. A study done by Makhijani for the Institute for Environmental and Energy Research, of which he is president, lays out a path to zero carbon electricity in Maryland.


Despite towering obstacles facing SMRs, from economic chicken-and-egg problems of ramping up production, to unsolved waste and proliferation issues, to remaining safety questions, the nuclear faithful at Energy Northwest soldier on. Yes, they now have operated a nuclear plant successfully since the 1980s, though questions have been raised about earthquake hazards in light of emerging seismic knowledge. Washington state has enacted a goal of 100% clean electricity by 2045, and nuclear advocates see it filling a role.  In any event, new nuclear power from SMRs will be incapable of supplying a significant portion of low-carbon energy until well into the 2030s, even if economic and other issues are resolved.

All that time, any new nuclear reactors will be facing continuing cost declines in wind, solar and storage, as well as increasing deployment of smart grid technologies and advanced long-distance power transmission. If the Washington state partnership’s SMR installation actually is built and operated, with the 2027-8 timeline likely to be stretched out and the projected $2.4 billion cost figure likely to be exceeded, it could well be a costly white elephant, a relic of faith in a technology whose time has passed. The critical need for deep carbon pollution reductions this decade calls on us to focus on the low-carbon technologies we have now. And those are wind and solar. SMRs will be a dollar short and a day too late. They cannot meet critical climate deadlines, not by 2030 or 2035, and likely never.

April 24, 2021 Posted by | climate change, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | 1 Comment